Saturday, August 04, 2012
Gore Vidal obituary posted by Richard Seymour
My essay on Gore Vidal's lifetime of work is up at Al Jazeera:
Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, who died on Tuesday, was one of the ancients. He has been compared to Tiresias, but in his escharotic chronicles of US history, he was much more like Diogenes the Cynic. His reserve of refined contempt for charlatans, philistines and petty moralists was limitless.
Theodore Roosevelt, the macho man of Republicanism, was "an American sissy", an effete upper class imperialist: "Give a sissy a gun and he will kill everything in sight." Reagan, a modern day Warren G Harding, was an ignorant front-man for corporate reaction, "an indolent cue card reader", and a "triumph of the embalmer's art". Justice Antonin Scalia was "reminiscent of a Puccini villain" in "both name and visage".
As for George W Bush, he had many pithily discourteous remarks. Arguably, though, Vidal had already hinted at the core of Bushism in his anatomy of American Caesarism, whose elements he distilled in an interview with Barry Goldwater. A real American Caesar would be no "Hitlerite maniac". Rather, while attracting "all the true believers", he would "oversimplify some difficult but vital issue, putting himself on the side of the majority". His manner would be "just plain folks, a regular guy, warm and sincere". And "while he was amusing us on television, stormtroopers would gather in the streets".
Vidal was an insider-outsider, an upper class dissident, a radical leftist with connections to the Democratic Party establishment. His early political sympathies were reflexively Tory, and his early writing naturalistic. Williwaw, his first novel, was a straightforward disaster story based on his time during World War II in an army freighter amid the Aleutian islands of Alaska....